24 August 2014

Rinaldo at Glyndebourne (2014)


I had seen this production of Rinaldo at Glyndebourne when it was first put on in 2011 and I was keen to see it again. So were other people and a group of four of us went, which is just as well as I had bought four tickets.

The vagaries of the booking system that conspired to deny me some of my booking requests this year also gave me two visits to Glyndebourne in four days. Hardly ideal but needs must and I was happy to take any tickets that I could get.

To make the second visit of the week slightly different from the first we went for one of the tables on the terrace on the second floor of opera house, by the Upper Circle where our seats were. The advantages of being there, rather than in the marquee where I had been on the previous visit, was that it saved the reasonably long walk and also I could get a fresh coffee from the long bar.

This time my seat in the Upper Circle was Blue B10, a little closer than the previous visit but also a little further to one side. It was a fine view for £85 especially as during the performance everybody sat upright and so the prominent head seen here all but disappeared from view. I could see both stage and orchestra clearly. That is why I chose to sit in this section.

Seeing Rinaldo again some things caught me eye that either I had forgotten or which had been changed since the first run.

Overall there was more humour in it that I was expecting, most of it slapstick, e.g. two soldiers struggling to climb over a low wall. These moments were very well received in general and there was much laughter. I was something of an exception and I found that some of these lighter moments detracted from the serious drama. Rinaldo is a story about love and war after all.

The music was as good as you would expect from Handel and the singing was every bit as good as you would expect from Glyndebourne and with those basics right it was a fine performance. I had also forgotten that several of the main male roles, including Rinaldo, where at the high-end of the coal range, e.g. countertenor. That was the fashion of the time and it has also been the fashion in the new operas that I have seen this year so Rinaldo sounded strangely modern.

The main theme of the production, merging the Crusades with St Trinian's, worked as well this time as it did last time. A clever idea well executed. There were lots of nice touches such as the broken bicycles on the stage at the start of the third act.

This also happened to be the last night of the season so we got the traditional end of Festival talk reviewing this year and introducing the next. We also got a baroque rendition of the national anthem which we all stood up for, even me, before exiting the theatre.

It is at the very end of the evening that having a table on the terrace is the most advantageous and I had a little cheesy nibble with another espresso from the Long Bar while waiting calmly for the car park queue to die down.

Rinaldo was a fine production and a fitting end to another fine season. I'll be back at Glyndebourne next year (health, wealth and the ballot willing) for more of the same.

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